The Supreme Court asked the Centre to place before it in a sealed cover all the six reports of the Multi-Agency Group (MAG) constituted by the government to probe the Panama papers case.
The direction came after the Centre told the bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra that the Multi-Agency Group has completed the sixth report of its ongoing investigation and the government is prepared to place all reports before the
“We direct the Union of India to file all six reports in a sealed cover within four weeks,” the bench also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and Justice M M Shantanagoudar said.
The Centre had constituted a multi agency group consisting of officers of the Central Board of Direct Taxes(CBDT), Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Enforcement Directorate and Financial Intelligence Unit to investigate the
Solicitor General (SG) Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Centre, told the court that the bench should first go through reports of the MAG and thereafter decide whether it could be shared with the petitioner or not.
The submission by the SG came after petitioner advocate M L Sharma said the report should also be given to him so that he can argue the matter further.
At the outset, Sharma argued that the government agencies were not investigating this case properly and they have concealed material facts from the apex court.
To this, the bench said, “How can you say that they are not doing it (probe)? They have said they are investigating the matter and when a stand is taken by respondents (Centre, RBI and others) that they are investigating, how can we say anything at this stage?”
The apex court had on November 24 last year sought a response from the petitioner on the plea of market regulator SEBI that it has been dragged as a party in a PIL seeking a court-monitored CBI probe against Indians whose names have figured in the Panama papers for allegedly holding bank accounts in foreign countries.
The Centre had sought dismissal of the PIL, saying MAG has already been set up to ensure “speedy and coordinated” probe against Indians whose names have figured in the Panama papers.
Five reports have already been submitted by MAG to the apex court-appointed Special Investigation Team on black money which is led by Justice (retd) M B Shah, and in a sealed cover to a Supreme Court bench hearing the black money case.
The Centre had on October 3, 2016 informed the court that Rs 8,186 crore, illegally kept in offshore banks by Indians, has been brought under tax ambit despite constraints like non-sharing of information by Swiss authorities.
The Department of Economic Affairs of the Finance Ministry had said “an undisclosed income of Rs 8,186 crore (including protective assessment of Rs 1,485 crore) has been brought to tax, on account of deposits made in unreported foreign bank accounts”.
Earlier, the Centre had also said that about Rs 1,282 crore has been levied in 159 cases pertaining to concealment of tax due to the goverment.
“So far 164 prosecution complaints have been filed in 75 cases. The apex court-appointed SIT on blackmoney has been kept updated on the progress in these investigations,” it had said.
The Finance Ministry, however, had refused to respond to the allegations relating to an interim plea of advocate Sharma seeking a direction that the offshore portfolio investors, who invest in the Indian stock market through participatory-notes, should not be allowed to withdraw money till further orders.
It had said the issue related to SEBI which was the competent authority in this regard.
The ministry had also opposed the contention raised in the PIL that re-appointment of U K Sinha as SEBI chief was illegal and hence should be quashed.
Seeking dismissal of the PIL, it had said the SIT on black money has been kept informed on regular basis about the development made in the probe.
The PIL had sought a court-monitored CBI probe into the Panama papers leak which contained an unprecedented amount of information, including more than 11 million documents covering 2,10,000 companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions.
Each transaction spanned different jurisdictions and may involve multiple entities and individuals.
The plea also suggested that a direction be given to CBI to lodge FIR and conduct investigation against the SEBI chairman, his associates and share brokers for alleged offences, including under the Prevention of Corruption Act and Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
The petition had alleged that Panama papers included the names of nearly 500 Indians, including celebrities and industrialists, who have allegedly parked funds in offshore accounts in transactions brokered by the law firm.